OBY Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education, has asked the President Muhammadu Buhari government to show it was easier and faster to tackle poverty in the 21st century “than it was when Moshood Abiola was alive”.
Ezekwesili made this known at an event organized by the Pro-Democracy Movement in Lagos to commemorate the Democracy Day on June 12, according to Punch.
She said since “democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people”, those at the helms of affairs should be bothered about the high rate of poverty in Nigeria. According to her, that was the issue the late Moshood Abiola wanted to resolve before his mandate was stolen.
“What was the rate of poverty when Chief MKO Abiola enunciated a manifesto that talked about farewell to poverty? What you can see clearly from the indicators is that poverty has increased,” she said.
Ezekwesili said the greatest honor the government could give Abiola was to show that it was easier and faster to tackle poverty in the 21st century than it was when he was alive.
She noted that what has happened between 1993 and now is that “Nigeria has overtaken India, a nation that is about six times its population, by having the largest number of extremely poor people in its population”.
“If you have 93 million people living in poverty, then it means that you must focus the government on them”.
But what she said had happened in the government was the monopolizing of political and governance space, adding that citizens “whom the democracy should be for” were excluded. Ezekwesili said the political class has “weaponised poverty as an instrument of perpetual control”.
She noted that these 93 million people vote out of ignorance, if at all they did. “Unfortunately, some of the 93 million people don’t vote and when they have the power to vote, they don’t clearly know how to exercise that vote in their own interest. What do you then do when the excluded have a way of conspiring with a system that has excluded them to entrench the exclusion?
Sound policies, strong institutions, effective and efficient investment in public goods and services are what the government should provide the country to attain a height of productivity, lifting the people out of poverty, said Ezekwesili.
She also urged privileged Nigerians to use their positions to uplift the poor for a change in their orientation, as well as to improve their productivity.
Ezekwesili said Nigerians must also speak up against bad government such that what will guarantee progress in “perpetuity is the office of the citizens”. “Stop swallowing your voice. Stop being distracted by daily bread issues. We need a coalition of forces of citizens to say, ‘we can reclaim our land’, she chanted.
Adherence to the rule of law, participation, responsiveness, transparency, accountability, equity and equality are the concepts of good governance, Ezekwesili outlined. “But when you don’t see these, then you know there is no good governance,” she said.